Goodwood Park is home to a historic cricket ground, on which the earliest recorded game was played in 1702. Each year the area hosts an eclectic display with a motoring theme. The Festival of Speed this year featured the 2008 U.S. Drag Team and the rumble of iconic American top-fuel dragsters being fired up twice daily for our first cacklefest. Health and Safety inspectors kept all spectators 30 feet away, with or without ear defenders, putting everyone behind the ropes before the cars fired up. More than 140,000 fans attended the Festival to witness more than 100 world class riders and drivers and over 350 world class cars, with all the action from the hill climb and rally stages visible on the big screen TVs all round the grounds.
Although we had a fistful of dragsters, including Sydney Allard’s American style blown Chrysler built in 1961, for British drag race fans it really all began back in 1963 with the arrival of Dean Moon’s Revell-backed Mooneyes Dragmaster, a Chevy-powered gas dragster that ran the first single-digit quarter-mile elapsed time in the UK. Dante Duce drove it to 166 mph in 9.25 seconds, leaving black rubber stripes wandering down the length of the Club Straight at Silverstone. A couple of days later the team went down to Brighton in Sussex for the annual Speed Trials and smoked up a storm along the seafront. The crowd went wild; the British sprinters were stunned.
A year later the U.S. Drag Racing Team with Wally Parks, Don Garlits, fresh from his first Indy U.S. Nat’s win, along with TV Tommy Ivo, Tony Nancy and a host of others arrived for the first British Drag Festivals. Following this successful series, British drag racing pioneer Sidney Allard, who Dante Duce had come to race in ‘63, spoke of the rubber tracks left on the tarmac at Blackbushe by the U.S. Drag Racing Team’s visiting American machines as being indelible marks on the history of British motor sport. Drag racing had arrived on UK shores, in style!